Structural Biology and Biophysics

The Structural Biology and Biophysics cluster provides graduate training in this exciting and important area for biomedical research that draws upon concepts and approaches from biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.  Students gain fluency in the ‘languages’ of the underlying disciplines and learn to frame biological questions and also to develop and/or deploy multidisciplinary tools to answer these questions. 

The cluster features a vibrant group of more than two dozen accomplished and highly collaborative faculty with diverse research interests in structural biology, drug design, mechanistic biology, computational biology and informatics, and chemical biology.  A variety of fundamental biological questions are being addressed, including gene regulation, macromolecular machines, metal trafficking, protein interaction networks, nucleic acid structure and function, protein and RNA folding and processing, protein structure and function, and signaling.  Nporthwestern University provides outstanding research resources including state-of-the-art instrumentation and fully staffed facilities for students aspiring to do cutting-edge research in these areas. 

Besides providing a highly interactive and interdisciplinary research environment, student trainees share a common learning experience through didactic coursework at the introductory and advanced levels on contemporary structural biology and biophysics (see below); The cluster sponsors a variety of extra-didactic enrichment activities for students including biweekly biophysics seminars and monthly journal clubs that highlight exciting recent developments in this area.  These events provide numerous opportunities for students to develop oral presentation skills and receive feedback on their research projects.

Information on the NIH funded Molecular Biophysics Training Grant (T32) can be found here.

Graduate-level Courses Developed by Cluster Faculty

  • Molecular Biophysics (IBiS 401)
  • Macromolecular Structure and Function (DGP 465)
  • Structural Basis of Signal Transduction  (DGP 466)
  • Biophysical Methods for Macromolecular Analysis (IBiS 409)
  • Fundamentals of Macromolecular Crystallography and NMR (IBiS 408)
  • Quantitative Biology (IBiS 410)

Cluster Co-directors

Training Faculty

  • Luis Amaral, PhD (IBiS)  Systems approach to the characterization and modeling of cellular networks
  • Wayne Anderson, PhD (DGP)  Structural genomics, protein-ligand interactions, and enzyme structure and function
  • Douglas Freymann, PhD (DGP)  Structural Biology, X-ray Crystallography, Macromolecular Structure/Function-  GTPase mechanism, Signal Recognition Particle (SRP) targeting complex, and Mitochondrial protein Miro, among others
  • Marco Gallio, PhD (IBiS)  The processing of temperature stimuli in the brain
  • Jaime García-Añoveros, PhD (DGP)  Genetic dissection of hearing, touch and pain in mammals and in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Xiaolin He, PhD (DGP)  Structural Cancer Biology and Neurobiology; Cell-surface Receptors in Development and Cancer
  • Philip Hockberger, PhD (NUIN)  Methods for imaging structural and biochemical changes in living cells
  • Brian Hoffman, PhD (IBiS)  Interprotein electron transfer, ENDOR of metalloenzymes
  • Michael Jewett, PhD (IBiS)  Engineering cell-free systems for medicine, biotechnology and synthetic biology
  • Neil Kelleher, PhD (IBiS)  Enzymology of natural product biosynthesis, mass spectrometric-based studies of the "Histone Code," and development of Fourier Transform Mass Spectrometry (FTMS) for Top Down Proteomics
  • Robert Lamb, PhD (IBiS)  Molecular structure and mechanism of replication of the influenza virus and the paramyxovirus SV5
  • Joshua Leonard, PhD (IBiS)  Engineering cellular systems and biomolecules for immunotherapy, synthetic biology and biotechnology
  • John Marko, PhD (IBiS)  Protein-DNA interactions; chromosome structure and dynamics
  • Thomas Meade, PhD (IBiS)  Inorganic coordination chemistry for the study of molecular imaging of in vivo gene expression and intracellular messengers, transition metal enzyme inhibitors, and electronic biosensors
  • Alfonso Mondragón, PhD (IBiS)  Crystallographic elucidation of structure-function relationships of protein-nucleic acid interactions; spectrin structure/function
  • Richard Morimoto, PhD (IBiS)  The heat-shock response and the transcriptional regulatory mechanisms of molecular chaperones
  • Thomas O'Halloran, PhD (IBiS)  Intracellular transition metal receptors (metalloregulatory proteins)
  • Heather Pinkett, PhD (IBiS)  Structure and function of ABC transporters, Molecular mechanism of membrane transport
  • Ishwar Radhakrishnan, PhD (IBiS)  Transcription factor interactions in eukaryotic gene regulation; biological NMR spectroscopy
  • Indira Raman, PhD (IBiS)  Ion channel biophysics, neuronal excitability, synaptic transmission
  • Sarah Rice, PhD (DGP)  Functions of Molecular Motor Tails
  • Amy Rosenzweig, PhD (IBiS)  Structure and function in the catalytic metal centers of large and complex proteins
  • Richard Silverman, PhD (IBiS)  Molecular mechanism of action, rational design, and synthesis of medicinal agents
  • Vinzenz Unger, PhD (IBiS)  Transport of Transition Metals; Structure and Function of Membrane Associated Synaptic Scaffolds; Methods Development for Membrane Protein Crystallization and Single Particle Approaches
  • Sadie Wignall, PhD (IBiS) Spindle assembly and chromosome segregation during cell division